Photos: Courtesy of the IMSA
Even though the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R race cars have had a fairly lackluster season since making its on-stage debut at the 2014 North American International Show and its on-track debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, the Corvette Racing team will send two cars to France to compete in the 2014 24 Hours of LeMans race. This will mark the 15th straight year where Corvette Racing has had two cars in the legendary endurance race and the six drivers responsible for driving the two C7R Corvettes will be looking to score the 8th class win for the program.
The Corvette Racing program first entered the 24 Hours of LeMans race back in 2000 with the C5-R in the GTS class and they had a solid run, finishing 3rd and 4th in the class – but that was the worst outing Corvette Racing would have until 2010. In 2001, the Corvette C5-R teams finished 1st and 2nd in the GTS class and they backed up that performance in 2002 with another 1-2 finish. The Corvettes dropped to 2nd and 3rd for 2003 but they stormed back in 2004 to claim the top two spots in the GTS class.
For 2005, the new Corvette C6.R replaced the C5-R and the Corvette Racing teams were then competing in the GT1 class – but they entered GT1 with a bang as they once again finished 1st and 2nd. While one Corvette won the GT1 class in 2006, the other car finished 7th and in 2007, one C6.R finished 2nd while the other finished a disappointing 14th. The Corvette Racing program bounced back in 2008, claiming the 2nd and 3rd finishing positions before returning to the top of the class podium in 2009 when one Corvette won the GT1 class while the other finished 4th.
In 2010, the two Corvette Racing teams moved to GT2 and they had their worst outing ever – finishing 10th and 12th in the class. Neither of the cars finished the 24 hour race in 2010
For the 2011 24 Hours of LeMans, the Corvette C6.R teams competed in the new GTE Pro class and did so in fantastic fashion, winning the class with one car while the other failed to finish and settled for 14th. 2011 was the last time that the Corvette Racing program tasted LeMans victory with finishing positions of 5th and 6th in 2012 and 4th and 7th in 2013.
The pair of new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R race cars headed to the 2014 24 Hours of LeMans will wear the numbers 73 and 74 rather than the 3 and 4 that will be more familiar to American endurance racing fans. Driving the #73 Corvette C7.R will be regulars Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen with Jordan Taylor completing the trio. Taylor drives for Wayne Taylor racing and he was instrumental to helping his team’s black Corvette Daytona Prototype finished 2nd at this year’s Rolex 24. Driving the #74 Corvette will be regulars Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner with Richard Westbrook serving as the third driver on that team. These are the exact same driver lineups that we have seen from Corvette Racing in each of the past two LeMans races and while they’ve not won the race with this lineup – most of these six drivers know how to win the 24 hour long race.
Oliver Gavin is the most experienced LeMans racer on the current roster, having won the class in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 across his previous 12 starts. Jan Magnusson has also won the 24 Hours of LeMans four times (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009) in 11 starts behind the wheel of a Corvette. Antonio Garcia has run the race 5 times before with two wins (2009, 2011) and Tommy Milner has competed in the race 3 times before with his “only win” coming in 2011.
The 2014 24 Hours of LeMans is scheduled to run on June 14th and 15th. Joining the Corvette C7.R teams in the GTE Pro class will be the best from Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Aston Martin and – of course – the cross town rival SRT Vipers.